A lot had been learned from the Nazi bombings of London
in the Battle of Britain in 1940 and how they suffered terribly
from German air raids. There were Civil Defense units in every
American city, town, village and in the countryside.
Malta historians Carol and Dave Woodin brought me a stack
of old newspapers last weekend to peruse. Several were from the
fall of 1942, right in the middle of the World War II.
I saw headlines in the Daily Chronicle about blackouts and the
drills to ensure they were successful.
In case those younger than age 75 dont remember,
it was feared that enemy planes could reach the Midwest and bomb
military and key industrial targets, including our local plants
like Wurlitzer, General Electric and Turner Brass. To avoid being
a target, it was necessary to turn off or block all the lights
in the cities and surrounding countryside.
This composite of the Chronicle front page from Sept.
9, 1942 also shows headings from various areas covered by rural
Carol recalled how her father, Walter Dresser, was appointed
air raid warden in his rural neighborhood around Annie Glidden
and Dresser roads.
Besides the hard hats and patches, the wardens only
remuneration was an extra allotment of gas rationing stamps (Explain
that to your grandchildren).
The wardens job was to travel out at night and be
sure every farm and residence in the vicinity had no light showing
People could still have their lights on but had to cover
the windows, doors and any other openings with shades, blankets
or whatever material they had available.
An article in the DeKalb Daily Chronicle reported on a
major citywide drill in the Sycamore area.
Almost immediately after the warning signal had been
sounded, people scurried into their homes and every light was
extinguished, the paper reported. An imaginary fire
at the bank was handled efficiently by Chief Butzow, the volunteers
and some of the auxiliary men.
Sheriff William Runnels
reported a 100% blackout in the rural communities under his supervision.
One defense plant working 24 hours daily could be observed
with ease by watchers in DeKalb, but it was learned that during
a test the government ordered that its lights should be turned
off only for a five-minute period.
Later in the story: Reports from police authorities
this morning were that no thievery had been reported in the city.
Other news that caught my eye in those old papers were
personal and society items from every village and township in
the county and even beyond. Regular dispatches from correspondents
covering such areas as Fairdale, Mayfield, Lee, Rollo, Ohio Grove,
Esmond, Victor, Afton, Clare and Paw Paw were scattered throughout
The late Ina Glover, who was county news editor during
the 1960s-70s, told me she had as many as 26 correspondents submitting
news items at one time. I cannot imagine todays editors
having the luxury of that many people reporting the happenings
from all around the county.
But then it came to me we have come full-circle.
People can find all this personal and anecdotal news on
Facebook and Twitter.
Things as trivial as a grandchilds first tooth, what
vegetables they picked in their garden or how many fish they
caught on vacation can be found on those digital sites.
I wonder what people will be using to communicate with
friends and neighbors in the next 40 or 50 years?